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Friday, June 30, 2006

Ruin-scape: When Video Games Approach Reality

When most people comment that video games are getting more and more realistic, they mean that the graphics are stunning. This is not what I am going to rant about here.

I play this game called "Runescape", a MMORPG, as a way to ESCAPE reality for a while and relax. After dealing with annoying people in real life, the last thing I want is to deal with annoying people in a game.

But this is what happened in the game... I needed some information and I got a tip that this old lady living alone in the woods might have what I need. So I pay her a visit. Unfortunately, she is having trouble remembering the details of what I need to know, but she thinks that a nice cup of tea might help her remember. OK, so she wants a bribe. This is SOP for NPC's in most games. But she doesn't want regular tea, oh no, she wants nettle tea. So I go off and pick some nettles (hurting my hands until I purchased some gloves). I take the nettles to town (no stoves in the woods) and brew her some nice nettle tea. I go back into the woods and give her the tea.

Old Lady: "I only drink tea in my special cup."
Me: "Where do I find that?"
Old Lady: "Here it is."

She gives me the cup, I pour the tea into her cup. I give it to her.

Old Lady: "Oh, I only drink my tea with milk."


I had to go back to town, get a bucket, find a cow, milk the cow (it's strange that I can't buy milk at the store), put the milk in the tea and bring it back to her.

That really sours my milk.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Rave: Enjoy the Buffet

I just got the phone call, Warren Buffet has decided to give me $10 million dollars. I think it was a clerical error on his part, but I won't argue. Somehow this happened while he was donating $37 billion to Bill Gate's charitable foundation. He doesn't want to give the money to his children because he believes that too much money is a burden, not a gift. Warren, I am willing to take on that burden.

To put this in perspective, it is a mere pittance (0.02%) compared to the $37 billion he has set aside for the foundation. And combined with Bill Gate's wealth, the foundation will have over $60 billion at it's disposal. If this doesn't make your head spin, consider that the ENTIRE budget of the Red Cross is only $3.4 billion.

Bill...Warren, I'm so glad that we will be feeding starving children around the world. Um, is it selfish of me to ask that the next version of Windows be built solidly enough that I don't have to download a critical patch every week?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Digital Cameras

The problem my friends and family seem to have with their digital camera is they treat it like a magical picture box that has nothing to do with taking useful pictures.

This is what happens. I go out with a friend, we each take some pictures, then we say "hey, let's exchange pictures when we get home". "ok, great". I later realize that I am dealing with one or more of these people:

1. Hi-res Man

Hi-res man buys the latest camera, takes it out of the box, and sets it permanently to the highest 12.8 megapixel setting. When I get his pictures, they are 5 MB each. He says "you can throttle it back on your end if my camera is too good for you". I say "Did you see the picture in Sports Illustrated last week of the humming bird getting passed at the Indy 500? That was only 8.2 megapixels."

2. Snap-Happy Skippy

Snap-Happy Skippy buys a few 4 GB SD memory cards "in case one day I find myself unexpectedly on safari". He sends me 231 pictures from our trip to the mall. He says "Somewhere in there is an award-winning shot". I say "Did you really need 6 pictures of the guy behind the counter at Sbarro?"

3. Eddie E-mail

Eddie e-mail attaches all 231 of his 5 MB pictures individually to an e-mail and sends it to me. He sends it a few times, because he "got a weird message" when he sent it. I say "you can't send 2.2 gig of attachments. Can you put them on an FTP server?" He says "I'm not ordering flowers, I'm trying to send you my pictures.

That really bugs my shutter.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Bumper Stickers

What is it about bumper stickers that will lead a person to put something on their car that they would never say to another person?

I am fine with free speech, and many bumper stickers are amusing and/or make an interesting statement about the individual driving the car. But at least try to follow some general guidelines.

Here are a few examples of bumper stickers I have seen lately that I could do without:

1. The misanthrope
These are the bumper stickers that just seem to express hatred toward others. Many of these seem to have some basis in jealousy. One I saw last week was "My Maltese is smarter than your honor student". First of all, your main point is just to disparage parents who have the "my child is an honor student" stickers. Yes, those "honor student" stickers are probably a bit snooty but at least they are factual. Second, are you sure you want to brag about having a Maltese? Aren't they the little white show dogs with the high-pitched squeal? Third, you are advertising that your most cherished possession is your dog. We don't need to read that far between the lines to interpret that you are also probably saying "I am physically unable to have human children".

2. The political activist
Actually, I have no problem with these political bumper stickers. However, a few things should be noted. First, try to keep these up to date. For about $1, you can get a Kerry 04 sticker to put over your Gore 2000. (Yes, if Gore runs again in 2008 you need to spend another dollar) Also, a tip for you folks who are driving the Volvo or Prius with the Grateful Dead sticker. Don't bother with the anti-Bush sticker, because we already figured that out.

3. The bizarre
I saw a bumper sticker on Ashburn Village Boulevard last week that said "The sex was so good, the neighbor smoked a cigarette". I don't even know where to begin with this one, but let me just say I'm glad my kids were not with me in the car at the time.

4. The Creationist / Evolutionist
Please stop already with the fish and Darwin stickers. If you have one of these, you are saying one of two things. (1) I am a complete idiot who believes that God created all of the animals at the same time, or (2) I think it is fun to sarcastically ridicule the religious beliefs of others.

I'm not sure which of these is worse.

This really sticks my bumper.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Internet Quickies

No, I am not talking about what you do with your webcam in the privacy of your own home. I am talking about short little rants related to annoying website habits...

1) Websites that use your email address as your username. It is so annoying to have to type in a whole email address to access a webpage.

2) Printing a web page in IE. What a crappy interface.

3) Sites that have music that automatically plays when the page is loaded. I especially hate when the sound is for an advertisement.

4) Web sites that appear to only ask you for a little personal information before showing you results, like just your email address, perhaps. But after entering your email address, the site jumps to a new page (or several) asking for more information that you didn't expect them to ask for.

5) Web sites with tight entry form validation before it lets you continue. I once had a website reject my input because my street address was "invalid". I didn't even give a fake one! Apparently their checker couldn't find it in its database.

6) Web sites with animation mayhem. This is usually only found on amateur websites like Myspace profiles, etc. EVERY graphic is an animated graphic. I think I'm going to have a seizure.

7) Frames. Don't use them.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dumb Dialog Boxes

And what, exactly, are my other choices?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Fading Receipts

The purpose of a receipt is to provide a customer with a record of purchase. It used to be that you could throw your receipts in a shoe box and look at them later when you needed to. However, many stores think that this record only needs to last a few weeks. They use crappy (cheap?) thermal paper receipts, which are quite useless. They fade and become unreadable very quickly.

Shouldn't it be fraud if a store requires a receipt for a return, but knowlingly provides a receipt that doesn't last the entire warranty period? I purchased a new battery for my car recently at Advance Auto Parts. It has a five year warranty. The sales representative actually suggested that I make a photocopy of the receipt because, "the receipt sure isn't going to last that long".

My favorite (*wink*) store, Best Buy, also has ridiculously pathetic receipts.

While I am at it, I am also getting fed up with receipt-checking at the exit and those long receipts filled with survey solicitations, coupons and other such nonesense.

Best Buy Sucks #2

I have found an interesting way to determine which companies are the worst. Look for Google hit counts for "xxxx sucks". Here are some results for several companies that I would rant about and several I would rave about. Can you tell which is which?

Microsoft (86,100 hits)
Cingular (17,700 hits)
Best Buy (13,300 hits)
Ticketmaster (696 hits)
Vonage (656 hits)
CompUSA (418 hits)
Taco Bell (281 hits)
Costco (234 hits)
Chipotle (48 hits)
Pixar (26 hits)
Wegmans (22 hits)

That really hits where it hurts.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Merchandise Pricing and the Surprise Discount

I recently purchased shoes that had a $65 price sticker. But, when I got to the cashier, they rung-up for $45. I went back to the display to see if I missed a sales sign, but I had not.

We all feel good when we end up paying less than we expected, but is this really a smart strategy for the stores? I had already made the decision to buy the shoes at $65, so they lost $20 in extra profit. What about the pair at the other store that I didn't buy because they were marked at $80, maybe they were really only $60?

Stores need to do a better job of providing accurate pricing for their products. It is also very annoying when no price is displayed. Many times I walk away without buying something because there is no price marked and I don't want to bother with waiting in line to find out the price.

That really doesn't add up right.